AUSTIN, Texas — A North Austin church recently held a service completely written by artificial intelligence (AI).
Pastor Jay Cooper said his service was focused on how to discern the truth in a world filled with AI.
"So, as a pastor, I'm always trying to think through creative ways to, I don't know, make worship more engaging," Cooper said.
Cooper said he has been looking into AI for months and has a lot of tech people in his congregation.
Some of the sermon was funny.
"Good morning / afternoon / evening everyone and welcome to church name," the intro read.
It was also interesting to hear what the chatbot had to say about itself.
"'We must not let AI lead us to stray from our ethical and moral compass, grounded in faith,'" Cooper said as he read the AI-generated script.
According to Cooper, the script wasn't wrong.
"I thought this theologically was correct," Cooper said. "It even said if we lose our human connection, then we've lost truth. So I thought that was really powerful and beautiful. However, it was dry."
He said what garnered the most reaction from this experiment was the song created by the chatbot.
"Algorithms spin webs of lies," sang the band. "We lift your gaze to the endless skies."
Cooper said putting the service together wasn't as hands-off as he had expected. He had to give ChatGPT a prompt for every part of the service so it would be long enough. When given only one prompt for a full service, Cooper said it gave about 15 minutes of content.
Cooper said initially, he was excited about the experiment.
"But the longer the service went on and I could sort of feel people's reactions and kind of get the vibe of the room, I did start having the nagging feeling like: Am I disrespecting Sunday morning in some way?" Cooper said.
Cooper said he had the service on the books for months, but it took him a few weeks to plan it.
"If we had 100 or so people, probably 20 or 30 were visitors, first time, and I would just be fascinated to know why did they come," Cooper said.
Cooper said online, he did receive some backlash for doing such a service.
"The response was from, 'That's of the devil, there's no Holy Spirit involved in that, you're not a real church,'" Cooper said.
He said for the most part, the congregation had good and constructive feedback, saying the service lacked personal examples and words from the heart.
So the truth Cooper found was that ChatGPT isn't ready to take his job.
"If there was any fear, that fear is is gone," Cooper said.
He said he is confident he won't be trying this again, but he hopes his message sticks.
"Perhaps, if we experience something sacred in a space like this during a service like that, maybe we would learn to look for God in places we would never expect to, like the next-door neighbor that we don't like at all," Cooper said. "Maybe there's something sacred in this moment, or this person can reveal God in some way and I just need to look a little deeper. That's the hope. Was that the message people took? Maybe some of us."